Mobile marketing to kids
Editorial

Mobile marketing to kids

Marketing to children is a controversial subject, especially in the age of the smartphone. What constitutes a successful – and ethical – advertising campaign?

There’s no denying that marketing to younger mobile users is big business. In the age of the smartphone, recent data shows that 89% of 6-9 year-olds are active online and 57% of 3-5 year-olds know how to use a tablet.

There’s also no denying that kids are an attractive market for the mobile and tablet sector – from games such as Angry Birds, to apps aimed at adults wishing to protect their children’s interests and security.

But marketing to children can be seen as unethical, and with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the United States imposing large fines on marketers who collect information from children below the age of 13 – and therefore violate the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act – it can be a very risky one too.

How do you address the issue without opening an ethical can of worms? The simple answer is there’s no quick-fix solution, short of targeting the parents as opposed to the children. That’s what the majority of app and game developers have done.

Many apps have remote monitoring and parental control features, which allow parents to take control of the content their child views and purchases, and blocks unwanted sites, inappropriate games and associated expenditure.

Quite simply, any marketer who wants to tap into the youth market needs to implement safety measures that confirm a user’s age, or gain parental consent through an electronic link. Experts in the field also advise that talking to a legal counsel beforehand is vital to understand the legal grounding involved.

The threat of FTC fines remains a Sword of Damocles hanging over the head of any potential marketer to children, especially where mobile devices are concerned. One noteworthy case saw fines of up to US$500 issued for every text message sent by companies that didn’t ensure their customers had opted in to receive them.

With parents taking a more direct and active approach to marketing aimed at their children – especially where privacy issues and personal risk is concerned – marketers need to tread carefully in every sense. No matter how tempting the child market is, it’s moving further out of reach.

Chris Gilson Journalist CPL
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